Illinois Seeks Fifth-Straight Big Ten Title

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Illinois Seeks Fifth-Straight Big Ten Title

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Illinois enters the 2013 Big Ten Championships in search of its fifth-straight title. Illinois has won 11 Big Ten team titles overall: 1923, 1927, 1930, 1931, 1940, 1941, 1988, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. This season, the Illini have won four tournaments, including the Big Ten Match Play Championships, which is the third-most of any team in the nation.

The Illini are seeking just the fourth five-peat at the championships in Big Ten history. Only Michigan (1932-36) and Ohio State (1976-80 & 1982-87) have accomplished the feat. The Orange and Blue are also looking to become the first Illinois team to five-peat this year, as the Illini men’s gymnastics team lost its bid for a fifth-straight Big Ten title in early April.

Pieters Leads Illini into Big Ten Championships
Junior Thomas Pieters, who already has announced his decision to become a professional golfer following the 2013 season, leads the Illini into this weekend’s Big Ten Championships. Pieters helped the Illini to Big Ten titles in his first two seasons at Illinois, finishing tied for fifth in 2012 and tied for 10th in 2011. After placing fifth at last year’s championships, Pieters took second at the NCAA Norman Regional then won the NCAA individual title in stunning fashion, giving Illinois two national champions in the last three seasons.

Pieters is likely the Illini’s best chance for medalist honors and is trying to give Illinois three straight Big Ten medalists after Luke Guthrie took the honors the past two seasons. That would mark only the sixth time in conference history (since 1920) that the same school produced an individual medalist in three or more consecutive seasons (Michigan, 1932-36; Northwestern, 1937-39; Purdue, 1949-51; Purdue, 1956-60; Ohio State, 1976-79). Pieters is the third-ranked Big Ten golfer in Golfweek/Sagarin men’s individual rankings at No. 72 overall, behind Iowa’s Steven Ihm (No. 51) and Northwestern’s Jack Perry (No. 52).

Success under Coach Small
Head coach Mike Small has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year each of the past four seasons and five times overall during his 13-year tenure as Illinois head coach. Along with the current streak of four titles, Illinois posted three-straight runner-up finishes from 2002-04 and took third in 2008 with Small at the helm.

The B1G Field in the National Rankings
Illinois is the highest-ranked Big Ten team in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, coming in at No. 30, one spot ahead of Northwestern. Iowa is the next Big Ten squad at No. 55, Indiana is No. 59 and Purdue is No. 74. The remainder of the 12-team field consists of Ohio State (87), Michigan State (102), Minnesota (110), Michigan (117), Penn State (125), Nebraska (144) and Wisconsin (167). For the season, Illinois owns an 11-5 overall record against Big Ten schools.

The Venue – Pete Dye Course
The Pete Dye Course was named America’s Best New Public Course in 2009 by Golf Digest and is regarded as one of the most breathtaking 18 holes of golf in the nation. Golfweek Magazine has ranked the course No. 1 in the “Best Courses You Can Play” rankings for the state of Indiana. This is the second of three consecutive years that the Big Ten Championships will take place at a neutral site with the men’s and women’s programs competing on the same weekend. Each event will take place at the French Lick Resort in French Lick, Ind., with the men and women competing on the Pete Dye and Donald Ross courses, respectively. The Dye course will be set at par 72, 7,152 yards for the championships. Located on one of Indiana’s highest elevation points, the 18-hole course boasts a variety of elevation changes as well as three man-made lakes.

Illinois Boasts Big Ten-Best 5 Golfer of the Week Honors
For the second-straight year, Illinois golfers have recorded the most Big Ten Golfer of the Week honors, grabbing five. But this year, onlyThomas Pieters has served as a repeat winner. been honored by the conference office six times, the most by any Big Ten school. FreshmanThomas Detry grabbed the Illini’s first award this season after keying Illinois’ runaway win at the Big Ten Match Play Championships. Detry never played past the 15th hole and won or halved 38 of the 44 holes (86.3 percent) that he played. The next weekend, senior Mason Jacobs and sophomore Brian Campbell shared the honor after leading the Illini to a third-place team finish and tying for fifth place at the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate.

Pieters earned the weekly honors on March 6 and 27, tying for fifth at the Louisiana Classics and sharing third at the Desert Shootout, respectively. Pieters shot a 4-under-par 68 in the final round in Louisiana to finish -1 for the tournament and place fifth. In the desert, Pieters shot a 6-under-par 65 in the first round and added a 2-under 69 in the second round on his way to a -3 tournament total.

The Lineup
For the second-straight year, Illinois’ five-man lineup includes three golfers with Big Ten Championships experience and a pair of freshmen. Junior Thomas Pieters (71.54) leads the way, while sophomores Brian Campbell (73.50) and Alex Burge (74.30) both contributed to the Illini’s 2012 title, finishing 15th and 47th, respectively. Freshmen Charlie Danielson and Thomas Detry round out the lineup. This weekend will mark the first time this season that Illinois has used this lineup.

Thomas Pieters / Jr. / Nijlen, Belgium
Third-ranked player in the Big Ten according to Golfweek/Sagarin computer rankings at No. 72 overall … 2012 NCAA individual champion … Placed fifth at 2012 Big Ten Championships and 10th at 2011 Big Ten Championships … Leads team in stroke average at 71.54 and rounds under par with 11 … Has six top-10 finishes in 8 tournaments … Was named Big Ten Golfer of the Week twice (March 6, March 27) … Shot a career-best 54-hole score of 202 to finish fourth at the Western Refining All-America Golf Classic in November, including a career low-tying 65 in the final round … Also placed in the top 10 at the Desert Shootout (third), Boilermaker Invitational (fourth), Louisiana Classics (fifth), D.A. Weibring Invitational (ninth) and Wolf Run Invitational (sixth) … Played on the victorious European side in the 2012 Palmer Cup as the first-ever Belgian selected … Ben Hogan Award Watch List.

Thomas Detry / Fr. / Brussels, Belgium
Ranks second on the team with a 73.25 stroke average … Has finished in the top 20 in six of the eight tournaments he has played … Best finish was tying for 10th place at the Wolf Run Invitational in September, his first-ever collegiate tournament … Carded a season-best 213 at the Desert Shootout March 21-23 to tie for 12th … Has carded a season-low 70 twice: at Wolf Run and at the Desert Shootout … Has two rounds under par and five rounds at par on the season … Played for his native Belgium in the World Amateur Team Championships in the fall … Two-time Belgian national champion (2009, 2001) … Won the Belgian National Match Play in 2011.

Brian Campbell / So. / Irvine, Calif.
Third on the team in stroke average at 73.50 … Named Big Ten Golfer of the Week on Feb. 20 along with teammate Mason Jacbos after tying for fifth at the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate … Has carded a career-low round of 217 three times: Wolf Run Invitational (Sept. 15-16), Mobile Bay Intercollegiate (Feb. 19-20) and Louisiana Classics (March 4-5) … Has six rounds under par and four rounds at par on the season … Fired a career-low round of 67 at the Wolf Run Invitational … Tied for 15th at the 2012 Big Ten Championships, including tying his season-low with a 71 in the second round.

Charlie Danielson / Fr. / Osceola, Wis.
Ranks fourth on the team with a 73.75 stroke average … Posted a 72.67 average in four fall tournaments, including career-best scores of 216 at the Wolf Run Invitational and Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational … Has finished in the top 30 in six of eight tournaments he has played … Tied for seventh at the D.A. Weibring Intercollegiate in September, his best finish of the season … Fired a career-best 68 in the second round of the Desert Shootout on March 22 … Has seven rounds under par and one round at par … Named one of the top 12 freshmen in the nation by Golfweek following the fall … Qualified for the 2012 U.S. Amateur … Two-time Wisconsin state champion (2010, 2012) … Focused on golf after knee surgeries as youth made him abandon other sports.

Alex Burge / So. / Bloomington, Ill.
Owns a stroke average of 74.30 … After averaging 75.22 in the fall, has averaged 73.71 in the five events he has played this spring … Has competed at the last three tournaments for Illinois, finishing 19th at the Boilermaker Invitational and 33rd at the Augusta State Invitational … Played as an individual at the Louisiana Classics, tying for 13th, and took seventh at the USA Individual Tournament on Feb. 18-19 in Mobile, Ala. … Fired a career-best 54-hole score of 218 at the Louisiana Classics, including tying his career-best round of 70 … Has carded a 70 four times this season … Has four rounds under par and two at par on the season … Tied for 47th at the 2012 Big Ten Championships.

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